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Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz Media Stakeout at ABC

Presenter: Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz
December 10, 2001

Sunday, December 9, 2001

(Stakeout in Washington, D.C., after recording ABC This Week.)

Q: You've seen the bin Laden tape. If in fact it is or can be characterized as a smoking gun why wouldn't it help the United States to release the tape and possibly (inaudible) coalition?

Wolfowitz: First of all we think the evidence is very clear. It's not as though we needed a smoking gun. Smoking guns have been all over the place including his own words, not quite as direct as on this tape.

I think the question is simply, it concerns how we got this tape, whether the release of it will compromise our ability to get other information. And obviously the most important thing for us right now is not to make a case that's already been made, but to get intelligence that might lead us to other people. So those kinds of decisions have to be made very carefully in light of how it affects our ability to get more information. I don't think -- obviously, as you say the tape just further cements the case.

Q: (inaudible) and can you give us some (inaudible) of what's on the tape? And obviously, you have not decided to share the tape with the American public, but would you share this tape with coalition forces?

Wolfowitz: I don't know who has seen the tape, and to be honest I'm not the expert on exactly how we got it and how you make sure that it's the real thing before you release it. Obviously we would like to share as much as possible with the American public and I'm sure at an appropriate point we will do so.

Q: Sir, John Walker as a low-level Taliban fighter. What kind of (inaudible)? [Do you believe he has] access to information that would help us capture bin Laden or Omar?

Wolfowitz: I don't know that. All I know is some of the initial things he told us about that riot that took place in the prison in Mazar-e Sharif. Obviously the people who really have the information that we really want to get are those top al Qaeda leaders and maybe some of the Taliban leaders and maybe we'll find it in documents in places we are now able to get into.

But I think anyone who knows anything about that organization is a potentially valuable source of information.

Q: What do you see as the [tenure] for John Walker, as far as his custody, as far as what happens next in the process?

Wolfowitz: I would just say he's very lucky to be an American citizen and to be captured by American soldiers. He's being treated fairly, he's getting good medical care. He and his parents should be grateful that he was captured by Americans and not somebody else.

Q: Were there reports that (inaudible) bin Laden out of (inaudible)? And (inaudible) the bombing, the attack being, the devastation being much worse than it was before. Is that what you saw on the tape? Is that accurate that (inaudible)?

Wolfowitz: One of the reasons to be careful about releasing tapes like this is to be sure that it hasn't been doctored, that somebody hasn't force another image into it or taped some dialogue over it. I don't feel like I'm the expert who can tell you exactly what the tape reveals, but I can say that looking at it as any average person would look at it, it begets a picture of some very disgusting people laughing and boasting about how many innocent people were killed. It's really pretty horrible.

Q: Is it possible to say how many of the top 30 al Qaeda leaders have (inaudible)? Is there a (inaudible)?

Wolfowitz: No. I would say my impression is that we're still a long way from the finish line in terms of the number of people that we think are still at large.

Bear in mind that some of these people may be dead in the bottom of a cave somewhere and we may never find them. We may just conclude after a while that we haven't heard anything from them so maybe they're gone.

It's another point that should bring home to the American people that while what's been accomplished is remarkable in a relatively short period of time, and it is a very strong message to any other government anywhere in the world that would do what the Taliban has done in terms of harboring terrorists. From the point of view of our objective in Afghanistan which is to get the al Qaeda terrorists, what this does is it opens up a country the size of Texas with mountains like Montana to start searching through every nook and cranny to find these people. It would be a big mistake to say, "Well, the war in Afghanistan is over. What's next?" The war in Afghanistan has a lot more to be done to it.

Thank you.